I love food, as you may have guessed from my plate-heavy Instagram feed. As we explore Denver one bite at a time, I thought it would be fun to post short reviews of the places we check out. Many food blogs do similar things, but how many are dragging two four-year-olds along for their culinary adventures? While I’ll occasionally be able to get a sitter and check out a cool joint sans kids, most of these reviews will be places we’ve taken our very well-behaved foodie four-year-olds.
Saturday night we headed to LoHi to check out Brider. We enjoyed great food in a somewhat incongruously casual (but hip) atmosphere, which is often described as “fast casual.” To me, “fast casual” conjures images of places like Pei Wei and Chipotle, and the food and vibe at Brider is definitely nicer than either of those.
We were there for dinner which features rotisserie chicken, porchetta, and lamb served four different ways each. We had the lamb with kale and potatoes and the chicken with fried rice and kimchi (which was my favorite of the two). The chicken was juicy with crispy, flavorful skin (if you don’t eat chicken skin, you’re missing the best part), and I loved dipping bites in the sesame soy sauce that accompanied my plate. Unfortunately, my lovely sunny-side-up egg was stolen by fried-egg-lover Etta. I cleaned my plate. If I hadn’t tried the chicken first, I would have also loved the lamb with kale and potatoes, however after the kimchi/sesame/soy flavor explosion going on with my chicken, it tasted just a bit bland by comparison. The lamb was juicy and tender, and the kale and potatoes were tasty, but I felt they needed just a hit of something special to take it to the next level. Next time I might try their madras curry or feta/harissa/taziki take on the lamb. The kale and potatoes might be better with a slightly more flavorful meat like their porchetta.
They have a kids menu and high chairs, and the girls both enjoyed meatballs over polenta, as well as bites from our plates. They use counter service, which is part of why it felt oddly casual, since the $18 plate of chicken was as nice as I’ve had in any white tablecloth restaurant. This is actually a perk! I love finding a place where my kids are welcome and I can still enjoy a great meal. We were pretty hungry, but the rotisserie dishes could likely be shared along with an appetizer and a dessert. Brider also features a coffee bar, a selection of pastries, a large sandwich menu, and beer and wine on tap as well as cocktails (and a happy hour every day from 3-6). They are open all day, and serve breakfast sandwiches and oatmeal in the mornings, along with coffees and house-made kombucha.
After our meal, we enjoyed strolling along the river, and both girls ended up IN the river. We will be back. Next time, I’ll pack the kids a change of clothes for the post-dinner water play, and I hope it will be cool enough to enjoy their awesome patio.
Kids in restaurants have been a hot topic lately because of a restaurant owner who definitely acted like a jerk over a kid who was maybe or maybe not acting like a jerk while the parents maybe or maybe didn’t do something about it. Until some third party describes what really went down in that situation, I’m not making any judgments about it.
However, as someone who loves food and likes eating out and also has two small humans who often accompany us when we eat out, I did want to talk about eating out with kids. Part of my job as a parent is raising my small humans to be good citizens, who know how to navigate social situations, who know how to act in public. Eating out is part of that. And you can’t learn how to do that until you actually do it. Our kids have been going out to eat with us for all of their three years of life. The best times were probably when they were infants. We could put them on the floor in their baby buckets…I mean, car seats…and they’d sleep the whole dang time while their tired twin parents guzzled cheese dip and margaritas. Local Mexican restaurants and an Oyster Bar near our house were two favorites. As they got to be older babies and early toddlers, we played to our strengths: we went to noisy places, the types with high chairs and kids menus, and we went EARLY. We took toys and sippy cups, and when they fell apart, we took their butts right out, sometimes even all the way home, although that was rare. Now that they’re three, they’ve had years of practice eating out, and also years of practice of being expected to sit in their high chairs, eating their food, at the table with everyone else, until everyone is finished for dinner at home every night. I can’t remember the last time we actually had a bad experience in a restaurant.
Now, we don’t just have to stick to “family restaurants,” but can even go to places with like, actual table cloths and stuff, like in that picture from Forty Two at the Clinton Presidential Center, which may seem fancy, but also has a very courteous wait staff and a GREAT kids’ menu. Strangers have actually remarked to us on several occasions how cute and well-behaved our children are in restaurants, and we smile and tell them thank you, it took a lot of practice, and if they weren’t being cute and well-behaved, we wouldn’t be staying long.
The way I see it: no one else should ever have a bad time at a restaurant because my kids are being annoying. Generally, if a place has high chairs and booster seats, I assume my kids are welcome, and I expect that they will behave appropriately– otherwise we won’t be sticking around. We don’t take them to bars, though we have taken them to a local brewery, Lost 40, where they enjoyed the heck out of drinking water from little flight glasses and eating cheese dip and bratwurst. (Jon happens to love their beer, so we always have a keg from them in our kegerator at home.)
I think the best statement I’ve ever seen on kids in bars was on the menu of a place called The Bird where I had one of the best burgers of my life in Jackson, Wyoming.
I probably would not take my kids to The Bird, because we like having high chairs, and because it really is more of a bar than a restaurant. Once they were old enough to not need a booster seat? Maybe. But I like that they make their standards clear, and I realllllly loved that burger. I’d hope that if they did have a kid or parents who were “messing up,” they’d just politely ask the family to handle the situation or leave, without, you know, screaming at children.
Parents want to be able to eat out. Kids need to be able to eat in restaurants in order to learn how to act in restaurants. Obviously kids will mess up along the way to learning how to act, and it’s on the adults around them to model correct behavior, like asking people to leave *politely* if they’re being a disturbance, like getting the heck out of Dodge if your kids are consistently being obnoxious/tired/emotional/loud. If everyone did that, everyone could have a good time not just at The Bird, but in every restaurant.
I’d say I’m addicted to Pinterest, but that would imply a problem. Really, Pinterest is a big solution for me. I used to have folders upon folders of bookmarked recipes, but I only ever used less than half of the saved sites, because scrolling through filenames isn’t very inspiring or appetizing. Pinterest has changed all that, because I can scroll through pictures instead of filenames. I have 17 food-related pinboards alone, each representing a “genre” of food, like “TexMex/Mexican/Latin,” “Pasta,” and “Breakfast.” I usually loosely plan menus weekly, which for me means picking out 4-5 dinner recipes, a lunch or two, some sort of snack, and maybe a special cocktail or popsicle recipe. I’ll sit down in front of my computer, open up my boards, and pick say, one “Pasta,” one “TexMex,” one “Asian/Middle Eastern” and one “Vegetarian” dinner, scrolling through the pictures to see what looks tasty to me. Then I’ll pick one or two recipes from “Salads and Sides” to have for my lunches, and something from “Appetizers and Snacks” to munch throughout the week. My husband isn’t home for dinner one or two nights a week, and on those nights I eat leftovers, and we usually go out at least once a week. I usually don’t eat breakfast, or if I do, I make some sort of scrambled eggs or a homemade Egg McMuffin.
Many criticize Pinterest for being all inspiration, but very little action. While I do have some purely aspirational Pinboards (I mean, I don’t wear most of the outfits I pin), most of my food-related pins are actually in the queue to try someday soon. I thought it might be fun to actually share the things I cook from my pinboards, and give you the links and let you know how things turned out. I’m calling this feature MMMMonday.
Here’s what I’ve tried recently:
This salad served as my lunch a couple of times this week. I made a few changes to the recipe, namely leaving out the peanuts, adding sesame seeds, and adding a couple of tablespoons of sesame oil to the dressing. Next time I might cut down the dressing a little bit, as the salad was slightly swimming. I’ll definitely be making it again.
This green hummus is a super healthy snack, chock full of protein-filled chickpeas and nutrient-rich greens like arugula, spinach, and cilantro. I didn’t change a thing about the recipe, and even Etta loved it smeared on a tortilla. I prefer to dip veggies, myself.
This dinner was inspired by a sausage and spinach stuffed shells recipe. When my grocery store didn’t have shells, I decided to turn it into manicotti. My changes were adding a little tomato sauce poured over the manicotti before topping with shredded mozzarella and parmesan cheese.
This meal was amazing. I followed the instructions to bake my squash instead of frying it, and it was still crispy and delicious. For the salsa, I used a whole jalapeno, added more cilantro than called for, and added a diced sweet pepper. I also don’t think charring the corn really added all that much to the taste, and would think canned or thawed frozen corn would serve just as well. Another thought: if you don’t want to use panko crumbs, cracker crumbs would be a good substitute. I served the tacos with black beans cooked from dried beans in the crock pot for the first time, which was so easy and cheap, I’ll be ditching my canned beans habit very soon! In the future, I may use this panko-crusted oven-frying method to make veggie “fries,” while playing around with seasonings.
No Pinterest Fails this week! What about you? Have you tried anything you saw on Pinterest lately? How did it turn out?
My Kitchen Catch-all posts are a roundup of what I cooked, where I ate, what I’m thinking of cooking, and what’s got my brain cooking each week. Let me know what you think, and tell me what you’ve been cooking lately!
This isn’t everything I cooked this week, but more of a highlight reel.
The best dinner I made all week was this French Tomato and Goat Cheese Tart. (At the time of writing, this link was giving me “database errors” but I swear it’s where I got the recipe.)
The same night we ate the tomato tart, I also made us a fancy dessert: Honey Lemon Pots de Creme. Usually, you see chocolate pots de creme, and though I love them, they’re not very summery. This recipe makes a VERY lemony, tart, creamy dessert. Jon wasn’t crazy about them, but I was a fan. Be sure to grate the lemon zest very fine or it will make for a strange texture.
Berries in Meringue bowls with Orange-Scented Chocolate and Vanilla Cream: Because the pots de creme used a bunch of egg yolks, I had a bunch of whites left over. I had seen an episode of Jamie Oliver this week where he made a big meringue with pears and chocolate and cream and decided to try something similar. My vision was to have little bowls made of meringue, filled with summery berries and drizzled with orange-scented chocolate and sweet vanilla cream. To make the meringue, I whipped my six egg whites until they formed firm peaks, then added about a cup and a half of sugar and a pinch of salt and whipped on high for about 8 minutes. I formed the meringue into 6 little bowl shapes on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper and baked for about an hour at 300. I filled each bowl with blackberries, and drizzled them with chocolate (the chocolate was bittersweet chocolate, melted with the zest of 1 orange and thinned out with a little cream) and topped them with a vanilla cream (1.5 cups heavy cream whipped with 1/4 cup powdered sugar and a dash of vanilla). SO YUMMY.
Much like I did for Charleston restaurants, I plan to make a running list of places I’ve tried in Little Rock.
Wednesday night I joined some girlfriends from church for a girls’ night at Salut Bistro on University. The restaurant is a little hard to find, as it’s in the first floor of what seems to be a tall office building, and the entrance isn’t clearly marked. I had a yummy $6 glass of Kung Fu Girl riesling from Washington and enjoyed a beef brisket sandwich with a side of fries. The sandwich was tasty, and the fries were well seasoned. The menu was a bit scattered, but the food was good, and I think everyone I was with enjoyed their meals. They also have a late-night menu that looked pretty good– might have to go back and see what that’s like sometime.
food for thought
I’ve been meaning to try my hand at making my own pitas for a while. Now I’ve got my eye on making some tzaziki sauce to go with them (Serious Eats).
My favorite restaurant in Charleston was the Glass Onion. Located just around the corner from our house, the GO was a regular haunt for us. I liked things there that I wouldn’t eat anywhere else, including biscuits and gravy and meatloaf. Their delicious Southern food is also deeply local, and they served as the pickup point for our CSA. All this to say, they have a blog, and word is they’re going to be putting out a cookbook. I was happy to see they shared their Country Captain recipe and plan to make it soon. It’s a Southern curry dish– yes, there is such a thing!
We’re eating a lot less meat these days, but when I saw organic free-range chicken on sale at Kroger, I knew I had to grab it. After that, I had to decide what I wanted to do with it. Very quickly, I remembered Jamie Oliver’s Chicken in Milk recipe which I had seen hyped on Apartment Therapy’s The Kitchn more than once. They even called it “the best chicken I’ve ever had.” So of course I had to try it!
Overall, the recipe is a very easy one. Aside from browning the chicken in butter in a skillet (which I think you could totally skip if you’re not planning to eat the skin), the recipe is pretty hands-off. You just put all the ingredients in a dutch oven and let the chicken braise in the delicious flavors of lemon, herbs, garlic, and, strangely, milk. Many Apartment Therapy commenters seemed confused that you’d mix milk and citrus and were concerned about curdling. They were right to be concerned, as I often mix lemon juice with milk to make buttermilk in a pinch. In this recipe, it’s just lemon zest, not juice, in with the milk, so it doesn’t really curdle and separate so much as melt into the chicken, tenderizing it with the lactic acid and keeping it nice and moist during cooking. This is NOT a dried-out chicken recipe. I’m pretty sure if you just served this up to someone, they’d have no idea milk was an ingredient.
When perusing recipes online, always read the comments– you’ll probably pick up some interesting tips that may make for a better dining experience. Reading the entire Apartment Therapy post and comments rather than just Jamie’s recipe let me know that I should probably cook this with the lid on for the first hour and off for the last 30 minutes. I also got the idea to stuff the cavity of the chicken with the zested lemons and a little thyme (the herb I had on hand, though the original recipe calls for sage).
Here’s the recipe, modified to my liking.
Chicken in Milk, a la Jamie Oliver
1 3.5 lb. organic chicken
1 pint milk
2 lemons, zested, and lemons halved (If you can, zest the lemon with a coarser grater or use a vegetable peeler for larger strips)
1 cinnamon stick
1 handful of sage leaves or whatever herb you have on hand. Rosemary or thyme works too.
10 (or more) cloves garlic, skin left on
Preheat oven to 375°F
OPTIONAL, only do this if you like to eat crispy chicken skin or want it to look pretty and brown, otherwise, it’s just an unnecessary step: Season chicken all over with salt and pepper and heat a few tablespoons of butter or olive oil in your dutch oven. Sear the chicken to golden brown on all sides. Remove the chicken and discard the oil/butter. Otherwise, just season chicken all over and move along.
Stuff cavity of chicken with the halved zested lemon and some of your herbs.
Place chicken and all other ingredients back into the dutch oven, sprinkling with salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 1.5 hours, lid on for the first hour, lid off for the last 30 minutes. Baste if you want, but I totally didn’t, and it worked out fine.
Let chicken rest for at least 10 minutes before cutting and serving. While it rests, fish out the garlic, because it’s SO YUMMY smeared on crusty bread.
Reserve the sauce. Pour it over the chicken, dip your bread in it, pour it over the chicken and serve over rice, make mashed potatoes with it… DO SOMETHING WITH IT, as it’s so delicious.
I served my Chicken in Milk with homemade beer bread smeared with the garlic and sauteed squash and zucchini.
Save your chicken carcass and giblets to make chicken stock. It’s SO NOT HARD, and so much more flavorful and less sodium-filled than canned/cartoned stock. My method is to put the carcass and giblets with a halved onion in my crock pot and cover with water. Then I cook it on low for at least 12 hours. Fish out the big stuff, strain the rest, the freeze in Ziploc bags in 1 or 2 cup increments for future use.
We’ve been in Little Rock and without our beloved CSA for three weeks now, and I’ve realized that after a year as a CSA member, I completely forgot how to feed us in a conventional way.
You see, I became so used to receiving a giant box of veggies each week and planning my meals accordingly, that I actually forgot how to plan a week’s worth of meals and shop for us without it. This became apparent today when we realized we were both starving and had nothing in the house for lunch. Before, back in our CSA days, when our fridge was always overflowing with veggies, every meal I cooked involved enough leftovers for at least two lunches. On top of that, just to use up all the veggies before they went bad, I was always making and freezing ratatouilles, soups, and pasta sauces that could be pulled out and defrosted to make a last-minute meal.
Today, stomach growling, I peeked in the fridge and realized that while I had ingredients to make two more dinners (I shop the Farmer’s Market on Saturdays and fill in with the grocery store on Sundays), the only other things I had to eat were bacon, eggs, tortillas, cheese, pita chips, and hummus. I had completely forgotten to plan for lunch, because I got so used to having leftovers or something from the freezer! “What are we going to EAT?” I wailed to Jon, flopping down on the guest bed near where he was using his computer. (I tend to get swoony and dramatic when hungry.) “We could get some lunchmeat and sandwich stuff,” he suggested. “But that’s against the rules!”
What are the rules? Well, after seeing “Food, Inc.” we agreed upon the following:
We only eat meat that is sustainably and ethically raised. This basically means “pastured” meat, or meat that comes from an animal raised in a pasture (more than “free-range”, which is basically meaningless) where it can stretch its legs, graze on grass, and, in the case of chickens, munch on bugs and worms. This meat would preferably be local, but does not have to be.
In order to afford that meat, we eat vegetarian (or nearly vegetarian) for much of the week.
What veggies we do consume are to be local (when possible), first and foremost, and preferably organic.
All of our dairy is to be organic. Eggs are to be from pastured nesting hens.
We avoid corn syrup, processed foods, and excessive packaging.
Our coffee is to be fair trade and shade grown.
Most of these rules go out the window outside our home.
After some discussion, we decided that 1) we might have to relax our rules while we figure out a food routine here in our new city, and 2) it was time to get ourselves to Sam’s Club. In Charleston, we were members of Costco, but it’s basically the same thing as Sam’s. The #1 major reason to be a member is to get big frozen bags of seafood. Currently, we don’t have rules about seafood, though we are moving in that direction as we learn more about the environmental impact of commercial fishing and fish farming operations. I have a general idea that wild-caught salmon is “better” than farmed salmon, but I couldn’t tell you why. Still, fish is a staple in our diet, because it’s easier to get than pastured meat most of the time, and because I’m still not a good enough vegetarian cook not to base most of my meals around a protein source. Other things we commonly buy at Sam’s/Costco: canned tomatoes, chicken stock, chocolate chips, pasta, pita chips, Zyrtec, Prilosec, Lactaid, parmesan cheese, feta cheese, and dog food.
So, now we’re members of Sam’s (which, I have to say, membership for a year was $40 and they gave us a $20 gift card, so, with the savings on what we bought today alone, our membership is more than paid for), and our pantry is nicely stocked. I’m realizing I need to buy more than I think I need at the farmer’s market on Saturdays so I can make a few extra dishes and freeze them to have in a pinch later. We’re still figuring out how to eat our values in a new city, and I’m sure we have a ways to go. I’m also trying to figure out how the food aspect of this blog will look without the weekly rhythm of our CSA boxes, though I know I want to keep sharing stories and recipes of our adventures in more ethical eating. If you have suggestions, let me know! Here’s hoping we won’t starve because I don’t know how to eat like a regular person anymore.
We are moving this Saturday, and will be picking up our last CSA box this afternoon. We’ve arranged for friends to take over our boxes for the three weeks left in the season after we’re gone. All of this means: this might be my last CSA post for a while, because who knows how long it will take us to get our internet hooked up in our new house. Here’s what we did with last week’s goodies. We gave away a good portion of it because we wanted to be able to eat at some of our favorite Charleston restaurants one last time, but I made some goodies with what we used!
8 ears corn (gave away half)
4 slicing tomatoes
1 bag cherry tomatoes
4 bell peppers (gave away 2)
3 yellow squash
1 watermelon (ate at the beach)
2 eggplants (gave away 1)
1 bag green beans (gave away half)
3 pattypan squash
7 banana peppers (Jon ate 2 raw)
1 bag potatoes (gave away half)
I confess I forgot to write down which days we ate what, so I’ll just write up each meal.
Then I arranged the slices on top of the sauce, drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with salt and pepper, sprinkled with herbes de provence, and sprinkled with parmesan cheese. I baked the pizzas for 20 minutes each at 450. They came out delicious!
Meal 2: Ratatouille with poached eggs over couscous
After the pizza, I still had a gallon bag full of sliced squash, zucchini, eggplant, and peppers. I also had half of my tomato sauce leftover. So I decided to try a baked version of ratatouille following this Smitten Kitchen recipe for Ratatouille’s ratatouille, inspired by the Pixar film. Mine wasn’t as pretty as Smitten’s, but I don’t have a mandoline for fancy slicing, so I think I did pretty well with just my knife!
I decided to serve my ratatouille over couscous with a poached egg on top. Considering I’d never poached an egg before, and considering I’m still getting over an aversion to runny yolks, I think my poached eggs came out pretty darn well! It was an absolutely delicious meal. and we still can’t decide if we liked the ratatouille pizza or the ratatouille with poached egg and couscous better!
Meal 3: Smoky corn chowder and Greek cucumber salad
I made a smoky corn chowder with the corn using this Real Simple recipe, which I’m a big fan of. I’m an even bigger fan of it now that I have an immersion blender– the first time I tried the recipe, I had to use a blender, which resulted in a molten corn chowder volcano. An immersion blender is really a must-have for creamy soups, and it’s also crucial to the tomato sauce I mentioned above.
To go with the chowder, I decided to go Greek with the cucumbers and slicing tomatoes. I chopped them into bite-size chunks and tossed them with a dressing made with the following recipe:
Whirl the following in a food processor:
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 cup Greek yogurt
juice of 1 lemon
1 clove garlic, chopped finely
2 sprigs oregano (any herb fresh from the garden would work!)
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
2 dashes hot sauce
The resulting salad was delicious, and the smoky cumin in the sauce went well with the smoked paprika in the soup.
Meal 4: Nicoise salad with pesto
To use up the last of the veggies, I adapted tworecipes to make a nicoise salad with a pesto dressing. I always have good pesto on hand, because my mom makes her own with home-grown pesto, and, even if I have to pack it on ice in a cooler, I always bring home a jar or two after a visit.
I boiled four eggs and let them cool. I chopped the potatoes and the green beans into bite-size pieces, then boiled the potatoes for 10 minutes, then added the green beans to the pot and boiled both together for 5 more minutes. Then I drained the potatoes and green beans and rinsed with cold water to cool. I cut the cherry tomatoes in half and tossed all the ingredients in a bowl with a can of tuna and a can of garbanzo beans (both drained) (not traditional, but I wanted to use them up before the move). Then I dressed the salad using a mixture of pesto, lemon juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper. Yum!
Meal 5: Pattypan scramble
One morning when I was home alone, I fried up some bacon, sauteed the pattypan squash in the drippings, and then scrambled them with eggs, mozzarella cheese (it’s what I had), oregano (it’s what I grow in my front yard), and the bacon. A yummy brunch!
After all those meals, you need dessert: Key Lime Coconut Cake
I’m not kidding about my Smitten Kitchen fangirldom. I went looking for a recipe to use up some coconut before the move, and I found this Key Lime Coconut Cake recipe. Whaddaya know? I had limes too! I was so excited about this cake, only to be devastated when It got half stuck in the pan and crumbled into a big mess. I tried again, this time buttering and flouring the pan instead of following the instructions to butter it and place parchment paper in the bottom, and this time it came out great. A great summer cake. I have a feeling I’ll be experimenting with the recipe, maybe trying to turn it into cupcakes or a layer cake.
And there you have another week of fresh local eats!
Bonus: restaurant reviews
When not eating delicious food at home, we ate out a lot! One night we ate at FIG, one of our favorite Charleston restaurants (seriously, a must-visit if you come here). Another night, we rounded up a whole gang of friends in search of a seafood feast. We had planned to hit up our favorite, Bowen’s Island, a true experience and a must-visit if you’re in Charleston for oyster season (any month that has an “R” in it), but Bowen’s was closed for a private party. So we ended up trying the Sand Castle, a seafood joint on Folly that we’d never visited before. I was sold when I saw that they had fried softshell crab and $3.25 pinot grigio, and Jon got a seafood feast which featured fried flounder, shrimp, oysters, and deviled crab. Saturday we hit up Red’s Ice House with a bunch of friends. Red’s has miles of deck space overlooking Shem Creek, and my one goal was a giant pina colada, a goal I achieved. We also spotted a guy paddle boarding with his DOG on board, and were amazed at the dog’s steady, calm pose aboard the surfboard. Just another great night in Charleston! I’m going to miss this place!